United by Collaboration: EnCompass leads International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) Workshop graphic

United by Collaboration: EnCompass leads International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) Workshop

Written by: Melina Benjamin, Communications, Editing, and Product Development Assistant

What makes collaboration successful? How can organizations create lasting social impact through structured collective action and meaningful mentorship? EnCompass staff explored these questions in a workshop for the 2021 U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). The IVLP is a short-term exchange program that builds upon U.S. foreign policy goals and international participants’ professional interests.

The project, entitled “Minority Participation in the Democratic Process—A Regional Project for the Western Hemisphere,” aimed to help leaders from underrepresented communities in locally based initiatives and to promote inclusive political participation and coalition building in the democratic process. In EnCompass’ workshop within this project, there were eight Latin American participants from a wide range of professional backgrounds including human rights, gender, youth activism, and governance.

Susan Davis, Chief of Party for USAID’s Global Waters Communications and Knowledge Management II contract, Jennifer-Collins Foley, Chief of Party for USAID’s DRG Center Generating Results within our Work (GROW) project, and Mindy Visser, Senior Leadership Advisor for our Learning and Capacity Strengthening practice, co-led a two-hour workshop on November 1 titled “Collective Action to Accelerate Progress.” Our team was excited to support this effort that builds on EnCompass’ strong commitment to integrating gender equality, social inclusion, and DEI into our own work and organizational culture.

The IVLP program, which normally entails a tour of various locations in the U.S., was completely remote this year due to COVID-19. As such, it was even more important for our team to set aside time for everyone to get to know one another at the outset of the program. With deep experience facilitating participatory virtual gatherings for multilingual stakeholders, EnCompass designed an interactive session that helped attendees from different countries connect with each other. This encouraged open dialogue around shared experiences and expertise, especially around mentorship.

Collective Action

To frame the workshop, participants began by crafting their own “life map.” They reflected on times when collaboration helped them on their journey, and times when collaboration impeded their progress. Susan Davis shared the five conditions of collective action: shared agenda, shared measurement, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and a strong backbone.

To bring the collective action principles to life, Susan Davis described the ongoing Para Todos Por Siempre movement in Honduras, a national collaboration effort that inspired the global initiative (Agenda for Change) for which she previously was the Global Coordinator. This movement, built by national and local governments and NGOs, exemplifies the conditions of collective action. The participants’ common agenda was to support municipal governments in achieving their goals of universal water and sanitation access. The strong backbone (a neutral secretariat) was hosted by IRC, an international NGO. The secretariat supported shared measurement and enabled mutually reinforcing activities and continuous communications by convening regular meetings, developing guiding documents, facilitating co-creation of governance structure, and liaising with members to unite them around a common approach.

Meaningful Mentorship

Mentorship programs can be a powerful tool to empower disenfranchised populations. To illuminate possibilities around these efforts, Jennifer-Collins Foley shared the Transforming Agency, Access, and Power (TAAP) Inclusion Toolkit. TAAP Inclusion is an approach to inclusive development that provides development practitioners and activists with a set of guiding principles, an analytical framework, and a series of practical steps and activities aimed at integrating inclusion throughout a project cycle.

“I shared the story of a disability activist from Jamaica named Bridget that I met through working on TAAP, who has achieved amazing success in her city, including the building of accessible schools and an accessible town hall,” Jennifer-Collins Foley said. “This was possible because of her resilience, creativity, and determination, including in cultivating the mentorship of the mayor of her city.”

EnCompass is proud to have hosted a workshop for the IVLP program. We hope that participants left with some concrete ideas for how to advocate for inclusive coalition-building and mentoring programs, and we look forward to seeing how they will build upon lessons learned in the IVLP program to engage underrepresented communities in their own locally based initiatives in the years ahead.

Melina Benjamin

Communications, Editing, and Product Development Assistant

Melina Benjamin is EnCompass’ Communications, Editing, and Product Development Assistant. She supports the Communications Team’s administrative and operational functions. Additionally, through copy editing, proofreading, formatting, and layout design, Melina ensures that EnCompass’ products and technical deliverables adhere to company and client style and quality standards. Melina has experience working for Gonzaga University’s weekly student newspaper as a Staff Writer, News Editor, and Managing Editor over three years. She has also interned with USAID’s DOC team assisting with global strategic communications and training support. Melina Benjamin holds a BA in International Relations and Journalism along with a minor in Spanish from Gonzaga University. In the international development field, Melina aims to specialize in global communications, public diplomacy, and intercultural communications.

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